Nelly Bassily | May 24, 2010
Madagascar is famous for its biodiversity. But in recent years it has also become widely known that the island is suffering from serious environmental problems. Forest degradation and loss is a major concern, as is overgrazing. This has led to severe soil erosion. For a country that depends on its natural resources, loss of soil can be costly.
With many Malagasy (the term used for the country’s inhabitants) dependent on natural resources, this story considers how to make a living from agriculture while not degrading forests or soils. Mucuna pruriens, often known as velvet bean, is used in many countries as a cover crop to protect soils. Planting cover crops and “green manure” crops is a common practice for conserving soils and increasing their fertility.
These Farm Radio International scripts look at various plants that can be used to improve soil fertility naturally:
-.Legumes make their own fertilizer – with help from their friends (Package 80, Script 8, March 2007)
–Improve rice yields without buying fertilizer (Package 58, Script 2, January 2001)
–Grow your own fertilizer – Plant cover crops with maize (Package 58, Script 5, January 2001)
–Alternatives to slash and burn agriculture: Improve fallows with Tithonia, the wild sunflower (Package 71, Script 5, June 2004)
And this Farm Radio International script tells the story of how one farmer found an interesting use for velvet bean: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/54-10script_en.asp.
Madagascar has been included in the UN’s REDD scheme ? Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. REDD tries to create value in intact forests. Madagascar is also involved in CGIAR’s Alternatives to Slash and Burn project (CGIAR is a worldwide network of agricultural research centres). Slash and burn agriculture is common in Madagascar and has arguably contributed to its environmental problems. More information on this can be found at: http://www.asb.cgiar.org/.